Another flashback post! This one has got nothing at all to do with English Language Teaching and is a much more personal post, which comes out of a chance meeting that I had the other day. It highlights one of my hobbies of making short films. But is also ties in with one of my current roles – teaching at a Methodist church – which I will write about at a later date.
Back in April 2009, inbetween completing my CELTA and working for Bell Educational Trust in Cambridge, I returned to my childhood home on the Isle of Dogs, in London, with my mum, dad and brother, Pete. The reason for our trip was a reunion of members of a youth club that my mum and dad set up and ran for 5 years in the late 1970s – early 1980s, before we moved to North Norfolk in 1982. My dad bought this old Methodist church building for £8250 and they called it the Alpha Grove community centre on the run down, working-class Barkatine estate. The old church building had been totally redeveloped and was undergoing some more building work when we visited. The whole island dramatically changed, of course, in the 1980s with (primer Minister) Margaret Thatcher’s Docklands development programme, which included Canary Wharf, a.k.a. 1 Canada Square. It is now virtually unrecognisable from the desolate waste ground I grew up and played in as a kid. I used to break into this area from our back garden, confronted by security guards protecting this empty space – akin to David Thewlis’ character, Johnny, a motor-mouthed intellectual and conspiracy theorist, and his prophesies in Mike Leigh’s brilliant and existentialist rumination film, ‘Naked’. What were they actually protecting, I ask you? Anyway, I digress.
I made a fly-on-the-wall documentary film and a DVD of the trip back to London. The film is interspersed with original, low quality footage found on an old VHS cassette, filmed by Tony Scott, in 1983. He was a frequent visitor to the Alpha Grove youth club and filming was Tony’s hobby. In fact, this was the first thing he ever filmed. He later got hired by ITN news, in 1985, and was a sound recordist for many years. In 1998 he became one of their main cameraman. He has now worked with ITN for 33 years. There is a day in the life of a cameraman film recorded last June about what he does and all the technology he uses. He is seen talking about his job whilst covering last year’s Grenfell Tower inquest for ITV news. He can be a bit of name dropper, even more then me! I couldn’t give you a list of all the famous people he has met in his long time working for ITN, but it has included Prime Ministers, filming The Queen’s Christmas broadcast and international missions like Charles and Camilla’s trip to Nepal and covering three UEFA Champions League finals – including 2012 when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich. He won a Royal Television Society award for his coverage from Beirut. Not surprisingly he has lots of stories to tell and is currently writing an autobiography, although he admits his English isn’t great and might need a ‘ghostwriter’..
On Sun 14 Jan, Tony unexpectedly popped into our home in North Norfolk. It was the first time either my Dad or myself had seen him for 30-odd years – the last time he came to our house was for a party. This was back in the day when we used to have anywhere between 100 and 200 people visiting the house after pub closing time. On one occasion, Robbie Coltrane, of Cracker and Harry Potter fame, – told you I was a name dropper – turned up. At that time he starring in a little remembered BBC2 comedy called ‘Laugh?? I nearly paid my licence fee’. He happened to be filming the poorly reviewed, ‘Revolution’ with Al Pacino in King’s Lynn. Oh. I have digressed again.
Here is Tony Scott below, posing for a photo with that DVD, and being reunited with his own Alpha Grove footage, which had been misplaced. Tony, for once, being on the other side of the camera! I rewatched the film with my Dad that evening and it holds a lot of memories for us all as a family. I’m going to stay in touch with Tony and see if he needs any help with writing his book…
The full reunion film (with music intact) can be seen below. Click on full screen to get the full viewing experience.
Note: The film has never previously been released publicly, partly because it uses copyrighted music, mostly by the Sting / The Police. UMG owns the rights to The Police’s recorded music and have labelled it as such on the video but has, so far, allowed the music to be included. I sang ‘Message in A Bottle’ during the Reunion Karaoke but, thankfully, this wasn’t recorded. The Alpha Grove had a jukebox and my father would regularly purchase the latest 7″ singles with the holes cut out. When it was time to replace some, my brother and I used to share the dividends, helping me to build up my vinyl record collection. I still have the two of the three Police 7″ singles used in the main film.
I’ve done a basic screen capture from the the DVD as, for some unknown reason, converting the video to a format for YouTube didn’t work.